THE UNITED Kingdom is effectively a single-party state, with little meaningful opposition. Theresa May’s Conservative Party dominate the opinion polls by huge margins. Meanwhile, since the result of the EU referendum, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party have been locked in a bitter civil war between the hard left and the centrists of the party. This internal conflict has reduced Labour to a laughing stock, setting fire to Labour’s chances of defeating the Conservatives in England, as well as their chances of defeating Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP in Scotland. Even in the Labour stronghold of Wales, it is looking increasingly likely that Labour could lose some of its safest seats (such as Wrexham, Clwyd and Blaenau Gwent) to the Conservatives at the next election.
Jeremy Corbyn faces a range of internal and external threats to his chances of success. Like a pack of ravenous wolves that have smelt fear in the Labour Party, other political parties are set to pounce and destroy. The SNP regularly make reference to Labour’s internal chaos and incompetence, determined to convince the Scottish people that the SNP are the only meaningful opposition to a Tory rule that the bookmakers are now predicting could last well into the 2030s. The near-extinct Liberal Democrats are making attempts at poaching Labour’s centrist supporters, whilst the Green Party attempt to lure Labour’s left-wingers away from Corbyn. Meanwhile, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall wants to make Labour irrelevant by turning UKIP into what he calls the true party of England’s working class, though this attempt spectacularly backfired at the Stoke by-election.
Copeland was a different story, however. The Copeland by-election has been the biggest in a series of blows to Corbyn’s leadership. If Labour can’t even hold on to a safe seat it has held since the 1930s, it begs the question whether Corbyn’s Labour will have even the remotest chance of taking away Tory strongholds – ironically, that being exactly what the Conservatives are doing to the Labour Party. It seems that this is very much a government that has the opposition on the run, not the other way around. This may be a result of Theresa May’s attempts at moving the Conservative Party away from the elitist, upper-class, Oxbridge-educated image of the Cameron-Osbourne years, and more towards a seemingly-centrist image of a party that promises to build a Britain that works for everyone. Theresa May’s premiership is barely a year old, so this is still very much a claim by the Conservatives and not concrete fact. Corbyn’s fluctuating performance in Prime Minister’s Questions also makes you wonder whether televised debates will have any positive effect on Labour’s chances.
However, the biggest threat to Corbyn isn’t even any of the other parties: it is his own. It is not Jeremy Corbyn who has turned Labour into a party of protest, it is the majority of Labour’s MPs who have done just that through never-ending protests against Corbyn’s leadership. Even though Corbyn has had to successfully fight two leadership elections, his position is still insecure. These anti-Corbyn Labour rebels would rather spend decades in opposition than support their leader’s bid to return Labour to government, out of a loathing for the left-wing and a love for the centre-ground. Corbyn’s leadership is not the problem. The problem is those that do not support his leadership. The Labour Party is currently like a centipede with all of its legs moving in different directions, but with the centipede never actually making progress because of just that. Labour’s appalling current performance in the opinion polls (with the Tories nearly at 20% lead over Labour) is yet again not the fault of Jeremy Corbyn.
Prior to the mass resignation of his shadow cabinet in the aftermath of the EU referendum, opinion polls showed Corbyn to be quite close to topping the Conservatives. In fact, two opinion polls in June 2016 (before the referendum) showed that the Conservatives had the most marginal lead of only 1%. It seems the efforts of anti-Corbyn rebels in the Labour Party has only served to bring their party to the point of collapse, without actually being able to remove Corbyn. Although an imminent leadership challenge looks unlikely, it is not unimaginable. Sir Keir Starmer looks like a favourite to succeed Corbyn should he step down or be removed from office. Even David Miliband has been mentioned as a successor, and to Blairites seen as a potential saviour of the Labour Party. Now that Miliband has returned to the UK from the US, you might see him being parachuted into a safe seat for a by-election. This would put Miliband in pole position in the race to succeed Corbyn.
However, the odds are not entirely stacked against Corbyn. On the contrary, we are seemingly living in a world where anything can happen politically. It is three years until the general election and three years is a very long time in politics. If you had told someone two years ago that Britain would leave the EU and Donald Trump would become the US President, you would have been laughed right out of the room. Corbyn critics regularly point to Labour’s poor ratings in the opinion polls as a reason why Corbyn should resign. However, with the 2015 general election, Brexit and the election of Trump, we live in a world where opinion polling is being proven to be increasingly irrelevant. An opinion poll is not a crystal ball that can see into the future. Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen recently said to a BBC journalist who doubted her chances of victory, “you are British and you still believe in opinion polls?”
Corbyn’s own chances of electoral victory may currently be small but they are not non-existent. His populist appeal and rhetoric could prove to be powerful nearer 2020, as populism has been proven to be a successful ideology in reference to Brexit and Trump’s election. It is worth remembering that opposition parties don’t win elections; government’s lose them. The next election is scheduled for 2020, a year after we are predicted to have left the European Union. A recession or economic crisis as a result of Brexit could mean all bets are off and Theresa May’s lead in the polls could plummet. In short, 2017 is too early to predict a victor in 2020, taking into account today’s volatile political climate. In a world where a right-wing reality TV star with no political or military experience can get elected to the American presidency, surely an austerity-crushed Britain electing a left-wing government isn’t too hard to conceive.